2 short thoughts on leadership


Pray that your influence never surpasses the resources of your God-formed character. [Douglas Groothuis]


Moses, Elijah and the mountain of God

One of the things I’m doing this year as I read through the Bible is noting down place names. It’s something that had been in the recesses of my mind for some time, but watching this lecture on the physical theology of the Bible gave me the prodding I needed to get on with it (using Microsoft OneNote). So far I’ve got about 90 place names and every so often I make a connection, which is most exciting!

That said, the scaffolding for the observations in this post came from this talk . No doubt I’m unconsciously plagiarising someone else as well 🙂

Moses, Horeb and Yahweh’s glory

Mount Horeb (or Sinai) is unquestionably a very significant location in Israel’s history. It was there God first revealed Himself to Moses in the not-burning bush (Exodus 3:1-2) .

Three months after the Israelites left the bondage of Egypt, they arrived at the same spot and there they all met with God (Exodus 19:17). God revealed Himself in fire, smoke, thunder, lightning and a quaking mountain (Exodus 19:18, 20:18).

Moses stayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18), came down (Exodus 32) and then went back up again for another forty days and forty nights (Exodus 34:28). This second ascent happened after the golden calf incident, and a despondent Moses asked to see Yahweh’s glory. Yahweh obliged, adding some health and safety stipulations for Moses’ benefit (Exodus 33:19-23). As He passed by, Yahweh spoke. The result of the encounter was a reassured servant.

After 11 ½ months of camping at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1, Numbers 10:10-12), the Israelites left, never to return. Except for one lone, despondent prophet centuries later.

Elijah, Horeb and Yahweh’s glory

Elijah the Tishbite had just been mightily used by God, but the mass repentance he had hoped for wasn’t happening. After receiving a death threat from the queen, he ran for his life (1 Kings 19:1-3). While he was out in the wilderness, God sent an angel to give him food for the journey ahead—a forty-day trip to Horeb.

Yahweh met him the day after he arrived. After a brief dialogue, He instructs the prophet to stand in a particular spot and “the LORD passed by” (1 Kings 19:11, ESV). There was a hurricane-force wind, an earthquake and a fire—all followed by the voice of God. Yahweh spoke, and the result was a reassured servant.

Moses and Elijah on another mountain

The ends of the lives of Moses and Elijah were atypical. Moses was buried by God Himself (Deuteronomy 34:5-6); Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Both of these men of God who had talked with God and had seen something of His glory turned up at the top of a different mountain to talk about another atypical departure from the earth (Luke 9:30-31 and parallels). Only this time their faces weren’t covered when the Son of God revealed His radiant glory.

So what?

Moses and Elijah had specific God-ordained roles in salvation history, so it would be presumptuous to desire their experiences. That’s not my point. While I think there’s much we can learn, I’ll briefly mention two things.

God’s servants

I’ve already noted that right before meeting with God, both Moses and Elijah were in a state of despair. Incidentally, the cause was identical—the people of God had abandoned the covenant. In this they point to Someone else who grieved over the people of God (Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 13:34-35). (Do you ever grieve over the condition of the church?)

The servants’ God

Another thing that struck me as I re-read both accounts was the importance attached to what God said over and above what God did. There were great displays of (super)natural phenomena, but the lasting element was what Yahweh said.

The words He proclaimed to Moses in Exodus 34 turn up in lots of places in the rest of the Old Testament, from the psalms to sulky Jonah.The instructions he gave to Elijah had an immediate effect in the following decades and an indirect one for much longer. And we would do well to heed what God said about His beloved Son on top of the third mountain.

And I think that’s where the beauty of all this lies. Even though we may never experience a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing theophany this side of eternity, we have the written records of those who did, and “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed” (2 Peter 1:19)!

Proverbs: Adornments

I’m not crazy about jewellery, but I can certainly go with the following recommendations:

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 
They are a garland to grace your head
    and a chain to adorn your neck.

–Proverbs 1:8-9

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.

–Proverbs 3:3

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, 
    preserve sound judgment and discretion;
they will be life for you, 
    an ornament to grace your neck.

–Proverbs 3:21-22

My son, keep your father’s command
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 
Bind them always on your heart;
    fasten them around your neck.

–Proverbs 6:20-21

Psalms: King, enthroned

If you consider that the current arrangement of the book of Psalms is more or less deliberate (rather than casual or random), some illuminating trajectories emerge. One is the general movement from lament to praise: Psalms 3-7 are anguished laments while Psalms 145-150 are unfettered praise. Another trajectory is the identity of the king.

The psalms are arranged in five books. Books I&II (Psalms 1-41 and 42-72 respectively), the king most often referred to is David (or his descendants). This section of the psalms speaks of the Davidic dynasty in positive terms with idealism and great hopes. Psalm 89, at the end of Book III, begins by recounting God’s promises to David in lofty terms. But after the selah of verse 37, things go south. The psalmist bewails the Lord’s rejection and wrath; David’s kingdom is nothing like what God had promised.

Book IV begins with a psalm of Moses, taking us all the way back to Israel’s beginnings—before David and before the monarchy. Book IV also rings with the cry, “The LORD reigns!” (Psalms 93:1, 96:10, 97:1, 99:1). David and his kingdom may be gone, but there was a throne behind his throne, and that throne will last forever. Finally, in Book V, the last king we hear about is Yahweh (Psalm 149:2).

So what?

Close to six hundred years after the destruction of the royal house of David, an angel appeared to a Galilean woman and announced to her that to her son would be given the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32). A little over three decades later, she watched as he died with this notice above his head: The king of the Jews (Mark 15:26 and parallels). In Jesus of Nazareth the kingship of David and the kingship of Yahweh converge. But wait, there’s more!

Those who believe in Christ await His return to rule uncontested (Revelation 19:15-16). Everyone will acknowledge His kingship (Philippians 2:9-11), some willingly and others not. Which group shall you be in?

This post is based on sermons by John Woodhouse and Christopher Wright.

Proverbs: The fear of the LORD

If you’ve been a Christian for some time you know that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (See Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, Psalm 111:10 and Job 28:28 ). In reading the book of Proverbs, I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot more said about the fear of the Lord:

What is it?

The beginning of knowledge and is wisdom (1:7, 9:10) and the hatred of evil (8:13)

Who does it?

Those who walk uprightly (14:2) and those who are wise (14:16). The fear of the Lord is rejected by simpletons (1:28)

How to get it

By being attentive to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; by calling out for insight and raising your voice for understanding, by seeking it like silver and searching for it like hidden treasure (2:1-5).

Do it!

  • Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil (3:7).
  • Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord (23:17).
  • Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with the rebellious (24:21)

Its benefits

  • A prolonged life (10:27)
  • Strong confidence [in the Lord] (14:26)
  • A life-giving fountain and escape from death’s snares (14:27)
  • Instruction in wisdom (15:33)
  • Avoidance of evil (16:6)
  • Life and not being touched by evil (19:23)
  • Wealth, honour and life (22:4)
  • Blessing (28:14) and praise (31:30)